O's game blog: The series opener with Houston at Oriole Park

The Orioles will host the 2022 World Series champion Houston Astros tonight to start a three-game series as their homestand continues. Houston is the only American League club the Orioles have yet to play.

The O’s swept the New York Mets over the weekend and lead Tampa Bay by three games atop the AL East. The Orioles (70-42) have outscored their opponents 25-7 during a four-game win streak. They have won seven of eight games and 11 of 15, and are 21-7 in the last 28 games.

O’s pitching has an ERA of 2.15 while allowing 19 runs the last eight games. Their ERA in the past 28 games is 3.23.

In the series versus the Mets, the O’s staff gave up just six runs (five earned) over 27 innings, allowing 15 hits with 11 walks and 26 strikeouts. The Orioles pitched their sixth shutout of the year Sunday with a 2-0 win over the Mets as Kyle Bradish, Cionel Pérez, Cole Irvin, Shintaro Fujinami and Félix Bautista teamed up for a four-hitter.

The Orioles bullpen combined for 4 1/3 scoreless innings Sunday and threw 10 innings in the series without allowing an earned run. Over the past eight games, the O’s ‘pen has allowed one earned run in 25 1/3 innings. Their bullpen ERA for the year is down to 3.53, which ranks third-best in the AL.

The Orioles offense has scored 39 runs the last six games and 52 runs in the past eight.

The Orioles are now 34-17 in one- and two-run games, the best record in the majors in those games.

Houston, in second place in the AL West at three games behind Texas, is 64-49 and has won five of seven and 12 of 18. Houston is 33-24 on the road and 8-9 against AL East clubs. In the last three series, Houston has gone 1-2 versus Tampa Bay, 3-0 against Cleveland and 2-2 versus the New York Yankees. The Astros are 14-8 in the second half.

Houston manager Dusty Baker, in his 26th season as an MLB skipper, has 2,157 career wins. With his next win he will tie Bucky Harris for No. 7 on the all-time managerial wins list at 2,158.

Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez (2-3, 6.09 ERA) gets tonight’s start for the Orioles, his 15th of the year and fifth since he returned to the big league roster on July 17. In his four games since returning he has an ERA of 3.57, a batting average against of .195, a .517 OPS and is allowing 5.96 hits per nine innings. He has allowed 15 hits and no home runs in 22 2/3 innings.

Since the second half started, Rodriguez is holding opponents to a .247 slugging percentage. 

That is among the lowest slugging pct allowed since the break (min, 20 IP):

.165 – Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee

.247 – Grayson Rodriguez, Baltimore

.250 – Blake Snell, SD

.253 – Gavin Williams, Cleveland

.255 – Justin Verlander, NYM/Houston

The Orioles are 9-5 this year in Rodriguez’s starts, and he has allowed two earned runs or less seven times. But he has also pitched six innings or more just once.

Lefty Framber Valdez (9-7, 3.07 ERA) will make his 22nd start for Houston. In his last one he pitched the 16th no-hitter in franchise history and the first by a left-hander. On the day they reacquired Verlander last Tuesday, Valdez no-hit Cleveland in a 2-0 win with one walk and seven strikeouts on 93 pitches. He faced the minimum 27 batters, retiring the player that walked on a double play.

The no-hitter was a bit surprising since Valdez had allowed six runs in 3 2/3 versus Texas in his previous start. And in his previous five starts his ERA was 7.00 and OPS against was .878.

But Valdez has been an All-Star for the last two years and finished fifth in the AL Cy Young vote in 2022, when he went 17-6 with a 2.82 ERA.

In three career games and two starts against the Orioles, he is 0-0 with an ERA of 3.68 over 14 2/3 innings.

O's infielder Jordan Westburg is 8-for-23 during a six-game hitting streak with a double, homer, three RBIs and an OPS of .922.

Catcher James McCann is 5-for-10 his past three games with five RBIs, and is batting .333 (10-for-30) his past 10 games with six doubles, seven RBIs and an OPS of .908. 



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